The Invitation Review: Nerdy Coda

I wanted to put this in the main post but decided it was too ‘liberal arts degree’ for a snarky review so just to be clear:

Milton Isn’t a Shortcut to Profundity

I thought this was my fault for not watching Se7en. But having done my homework, I am astounded that I now get to explain this to a professional writer.

When Milton is quoted in Se7en, Morgan Freeman immediately says where it’s from, and then lays out what we, the audience, can expect having learned this new information.

The point of the Milton quote is to show that John Doe is well-read. It mixes in with the library scenes from earlier and also emphasizes the studiousness of Detective Morgan Freeman, as juxtaposed against Brad Pitt’s impatient refusal to read anything but the cliff notes. You know, the crux that naturally leads to the film’s ending.

“Long is the way and hard, that out of Hell leads up to light.”

Milton but also John Doe in Se7en

The Invitation does things a bit differently. The quote is read, one character asks if it’s from The Bible. Dt. Somerset says “No, no, it’s Milton! It’s from Paradise Lost!” and this thread is never picked up again. A writer looking to build on the original work, rather than rip it off, might take the opportunity to create a “Satan as the hero” motif. Here it appears, is given prominence, and then vanishes. It gives the impression they are trying to be clever and failing.

Similarly, Hemingway is an allusion to the core of Dt. Somerset’s character as established through conversations with numerous other actors, and also a call-back to a specific scene shared with Dt. Mills that this play does not include.

Every actor is obviously giving The Invitation their best shot, and without the context of the movie Se7en, I almost laughed out loud. The raw material does not warrant Hemingway.

The Invitation Review

Rating: ★☆☆☆
Ticket cost: £71
Who this show is for: Die-hard Se7en Fans, mask collectors
Who this show is not for: Fans of interactive theater
Show CW: Graphic drug abuse, all the blood
This review contains spoilers. Trust me, it’s for the best.

I have a confession to make. Until this week, I had not seen the movie Se7en. I still refuse to watch Eyes Wide Shut because Scientology. But I am a giant fan of interactive theatre, so my Facebook feed has shown me this for the last three-four months:

I wish I had gone to see this show

So although I had zero context for ‘Eyes Wide Shut Meets SE7EN’, the trailer paints a great picture! Sex, beautiful outfits, intrigue, running. All that good stuff with an added “immersive dining option”. What could possibly go wrong?

TL;DR – everything.

Immersive Dining Only Works When You’re Immersed

I need to say, straight off the bat, that the food at The Town Hall Hotel’s Corner Room restaurant is amazing. Half of the options on the advert weren’t available but I can’t fault the food in any way. Staff were bemused but friendly, everything was great. If this was a review of the restaurant, 4 stars.

Alas.

We (about twelve guests) were “immersed” in a fully functioning restaurant with actual hotel guests. When Kendall (Lisa Moorish), mistress of ceremonies, waltzed in to say hello, the very normal people ordering dinner next to us would not shut the fuck up with admirable conviction. It was very obvious that “something was up” but they were here to eat dammit, and keeping them away from their food for 45 seconds longer would have been unacceptable.

I still don’t know what Kendall’s opening lines were.

Having not been introduced at all, the masked guests were asked to write down our “deepest, darkest, sexual fantasy” on a card, with our names, and they’d make sure it happened.

Cue twelve very awkward Londoners looking at blank cards and wondering what they can get away with.

Luckily, the gentleman next to me said he was “too old to give a shit” and scribbled something down. My companion wrote a joke, I told him to write something for me. So just in case this is blackmail against bad reviews, mine said “Just Give Me Orders – Fiona”. I didn’t write it, but it seemed fitting.

This goes nowhere and means nothing.

(I have been asked to point out that one sex-card was read out at the beginning of the show. I have no way of knowing if it was from the audience. A throwaway line is still meaningless.)

None of Chekov’s Guns Get Fired

In addition to the weird sex cards, dinner guests were also invited into an amazing scene to write their desires for the evening in a book (again, with your name, if you please.) The courtroom space was transformed beautifully with low lighting, and an imposing masked figure to greet you.

This goes nowhere and means nothing.

Later, a mysterious and obvious bot has a conversation via text with the guests. Some one-to-one interaction with the killer perhaps!?

It goes nowhere. It means nothing. Unless I missed something (a very real and depressing possibility) it isn’t even mentioned again.

I should note that these are the only really interactive parts of the show. The input of the audience is the main point that seems to have zero impact on events unfolding. Which is fine, if this wasn’t advertised as an immersive experience.

Sex Parties Need Sex

To give the Richard Crawford (director and “adapter”) more credit than he is due, Eyes Wide Shut is not, technically, an erotic thriller. But the marketing campaigns for both it and The Invitation lean heavily on implied eroticism.

And to give Emma Kirrage and Kai Spellman the credit they are absolutely due, their dance number was brilliantly performed, and the sexiest thing going.

The rest of the show…not so much. Although a selection of wonderful masks are available to guests at the start, someone still managed to rock up wearing a £3 V for Vendetta mask in jeans and a shirt. And good for him! Unlike the similar Vault’s Production, ‘Red Palace’, there is no dress code beyond ‘wear a mask’. But I defy anyone to pretend they’re at an ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ level soiree when this is sitting across from them.

Picture of a person sitting in a camping chair wearing a V for Vendetta mask. Caption above in red reads 'READY TO SEX' and is surrounded by pink love hearts.

I would also point out that the mask I am wearing here is made of plaster, which makes it about five times more expensive than the one worn by the cool dude who waltzed in.
Totally ready for ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ – (Yes, That Fiona – CC-BY-SA 4.0)

Herd Your Audience

This is the shortest section but I missed four murders because I was getting an espresso martini and peeing. I am genuinely amazed that that was possible.

What Was the Point Again?

The Invitation tried to teach me a few moral lessons before I left. To close out, I will present them here, in as much as I understood any of them.

  • Sex, the main selling point of this show, is bad actually

It’s hollow and empty and leads to nothing good! Our desire to pay a lot of money to be a part of sexy show times was horrifically misjudged. On this, we agree.

  • Diverging from Se7en, where all we see is a guy in a bed, addiction as portrayed with admirable conviction and uncomfortable realism is a sin

There is a ‘coke room’ at some point in the show where I was very tempted to give it a rub on my gums and see what happens because I am that type of degenerate. However, a heroin addict being enabled by the killer gives a very impassioned defense of himself, with dramatically revealed track marks. At the end, people are even commended for giving him spare change before the show.

I understand that his death is supposed to expose the “true evil” of the person we’ve already established is a murderer, which you’d think would be enough. But what sin is realistic addiction supposed to be? Is that even a responsible thing to suggest?

  • Fuck London

The city you live in, which is one of the rare places you can perform a show like this in a renowned venue, is dirty and degenerate!

No argument is given for this so I will just posit that being able to pay £71 to do this does indeed prove that London is shit.

(Coda for Liberal Arts Majors)